Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 23

Dr.

Michele Trizio
Qui fere in hoc sensu exponunt Aristotelem
Notes on the Byzantine sources of the Albertinian notion of Intellectus Possessus
In is philosophical works, Albert the Great mentions the names of Eustratius of Nicaea1
and Michael of Ephesus2, among a list of Peripatetic philosophers, at least twice. These
references may be found in relation to that particular status of the intellect that Albert
defines as possessus. As scholars are probably aware, these two Byzantine Aristotle
commentators, who lived and worked between the XI and XII century, are the authors of
commentaries on specific books of Aristotles Nicomachean Ethics3. Eustratius of Nicaea
commented on books I and VI of this work, whilst Michael of Ephesus, whose biography
is still quite a mystery, commented on books V, IX and X. Both were all but neglected in
Byzantium4, but in the Latin West were considered essential and authoritative sources for
understanding the Nicomachean Ethics5.
The aim of this article is to account for the association between the Byzantine
commentators on the Nicomachean Ethics, in particular Eustratius of Nicaea, and the
1

On the life and thought of Eustratius of Nicaea cf. J. DRAESEKE, Zu Eustratios of Nikia, Byzantinische
Zeitschrift, 5 (1886), 319-336; E. MARTINI, Eustratios Metropolit von Nikaia, in Paulys Realenciclopedie,
1, col. 1490-1491; M. CACOUROS, Eustrate de Nice, in Dictionnaire des Philosophes Antiques, publi
sous la direction de R. GOULET, III, Paris 2000, 378-388.
2
On Michael of Ephesus cf. K. PRAECHTER, Review of Hayduck 1904, CAG 22.2 (Michael Ephesii In
Libros De Partibus Animalium Commentaria), Gttingische gelehrte Anzeigen, 168 (1906), 861-907;
Michael of Ephesos and Psellos, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 31 (1931), 1-12. To be updated with R.
BROWNING, An Unpublished Funeral Oration for Anna Comnena, Proceedings of the Cambridge
Philological Society 188, n.2 (1962), 1-12. This article was reprinted in R. SORABJI (ed.), Aristotle
Tramsformed. The Ancient Commentators and their Influence, New York 1990, 393-406.
3
They are all edited, along with the anonymous commentary on books II-V, the anonymous Byzantine
commentator on book VII, and Aspasius commentary on book VIII, in Eustratii et Michaelis et Anonyma
in Ethica Nicomachea Commentaria, ed. G. HEYLBUT (CAG, 20), Berlin 1932. On this set of commentaries
cf. H.P.F. MERCKEN, The Greek Commentators on Aristotles Ethics, in SORABJI, Aristotle Transformed
cit., 407-443.
4
In a private conversation J. Demetracopoulos gave me some evidence of a possible influence of
Eustratius commentaries on books I and VI on the erudite XIV century monk Barlaam the Calabrian.
However, this evidence is slight and based on a mere parallelism of terms and expression easily found in
Aristotle himself. But the question does indeed deserve deeper study. The question of the influence of
Eustratius theological treatises in Byzantium is, on the contrary, quite a different matter. It seems that XII
century theologian Niketas of Maronea used some of Eustratius anti-latin treatises in his own anti-latin
dialogues; cf. A. BARMINE, Une source mconnue des Dialogues de Nictas de Marone, Revue des
tudes byzantines, 58 (2000), 231-243.
5
The corpus of the Greek-Byzantine commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics was translated by Robert
Grosseteste, probably immediately before the mid-XIII century. His translation is partially edited in H. P.
F. MERCKEN, The Greek Commentaries on the Nichomachean Ethics of Aristotle in the Latin Translation of
Robert Grossateste, Bishop of Lincoln (1253), t. 1: Eustratius on Book I and the Anonymous Scholia on
book II, III and IV. Critical Edition with an Introductory Study (Corpus Latinum Commentariorum in
Aristotelem Graecorum, VI.I), Leiden 1973; The Greek Commetaries on the Nichomachean Ethics of
Aristotle in the Latin Translation of Robert Grossateste, Bishop of Lincoln (1253), t. 3: The Anonymous
Commentary on Book VII, Aspasius on book VIII and Michael of Ephesus on Books IX and X. Critical
Edition with an Introductory Study (Corpus Latinum Commentariorum in Aristotelem Graecorum, VI,
3), Leuven 1991. I am personally producing the critical edition of Grossatestes translation of the
anonymous commentary on book V, of Michael of Ephesus commentary on the same book, and of
Eustratius commentary on book VI.

notion of intellectus possessus elaborated by Albert the Great. I am going to present the
original results of a study on Grossetestes unedited translation of Eustratius
commentary on book VI of the Nicomachean Ethicsin this regard6. This contains at least
two main passages in which Eustratius mentions the notion of intellectus possessus as
accounting for that peculiar status of the human intellect characterized by the acquisition
of a higher form of intellection, apparently similar to the one characterising certain
Albertinian arguments on the same topic.
In order to survey this topic I will first analyze the original Greek text of Eustratius
commentary on book VI of the NE, indicating the sources, structure and philosophical
content of the arguments that are most likely to have attracted Alberts attention. The
corresponding passages in the Latin version of Eustratius commentary will be
considered in order to prove Alberts textual dependence on Eustratius. Finally, both the
peculiarity of Eustratius description of the status of human intellect in its highest stage
and the originality of Alberts reading of it will emerge from this comparison of
Eustratius position in the original Greek text and Alberts reading thereof.

1. The status quaestionis


The name of Eustratius of Nicaea and Michael of Ephesus have recently been associated
with the XIII century constitution and discussion of the topic of the nature of human
happiness in its final and highest degree7. These Byzantine commentators of the
Nicomachean Ethics are treated as possible sources for the way in which this topic was
elaborated by some Latin thinkers traditionally labelled as averroist. Moreover,
scholars such as de Libera have recently linked the consideration of the role played by
Eustratius and Michael to the role which was played by Albert the Great in the discussion
of the idea that human happiness reaches its peek as man joins the agent intellect in a
formal conjunction8. Regarding this, de Libera stresses the importance of what he calls
(f)arabisme or thse farabo-avicenno-ghazalienne. However, de Libera does not
neglect the evidence favouring a theory of happiness elaborated by Albert that starts from
a wider range of sources, combining al-Farabi, on the one hand, and the Byzantine
commentators on the Nicomachean Ethics, on the other. According to Albert, de Libera
claims, the idea that happiness consists in mans conjunction with the separate substances

For Grossatestes translation I will rely on the Eton College 122 manuscript.
On this topic see the essential L. BIANCHI, La felicit intellettuale come professione nella Parigi del
Duecento, Rivista di Filosofia, 78 (1987), 181-199; ID., Il vescovo e I filosofi. La condanna parigina del
1277 e levoluzione dellaristotelismo radicale, Bergamo 1990, 149-195.
8
Cf. e.g. A. DE LIBERA, Albert le Grand et la Philosophie, Paris 1990, 268-269; ID., Psychologie
philosophique et thologie de l intellect. Pour une histoire de la philosophie allemande au XIVe sicle,
Dialogue, 31,3 (1992), 377-397 ; ID., Averrosme tique et philosophie mystique. De la flicit
intellectuelle la vie bienheureuse, in L. BIANCHI, Filosofia e teologia nel Trecento, Studi in onore di
Eugenio Randi, Louvain-la-Neuve 1994, 33-42. On Albert possible influence on the so-called Averroists
cf. C. STEEL, Medieval Philosophy: An Impossible Project? Thomas Aquinas and the Averroistic Ideal of
Happiness, in J. AERTSEN/A. SPEER, Was ist Philosophie im Mittelalter? Akten des X Internationalen
Kongresses fr mittelalterlichen Philosophie der Societ Internationale pour ltude de la Philosophie
Mdivale, 25 bis 30 August 1997 in Erfurt, voll. 2, Berlin-New York 1998 (Miscellanea Mediaevalia,
26), 152-174, in part. 159.
7

and God is not, to quote the author directly, un ide exclusivement arabe, ni donc
(f)arabienne, cest la charte du pripattisme grco-arabe9.
However, this renewed interest in Eustratius of Nicaea and Michael of Ephesus was
recently demonstrated by the two articles by Fioravanti10 and Bianchi11 that appeared in
the proceedings of a conference in Milan organized by the Italian Society for the Study of
Medieval Thought, whose title was Le Felicit nel Medioevo (Forms of happiness in
the Middle Ages). These articles attempt to rethink the traditional categories used for the
description of the so-called Latin Averroism or Latin Arabism. Bianchi gives the example
of Boethius of Dacias De summo bono, pointing out that the direct role played by Arabic
sources, in particular that of Averroes, in Boethius elaboration of the topic of the fiducia
philosophantis is actually immaterial. The idea that only philosophy can truly account for
human happiness, by means of a formal conjunction with the agent intellect or in general
by means of a coniunctio, copulatio or continuatio between the human mind and the
separate intellects, and ultimately with God, is indeed present in Boethius of Dacia, but
via other sources. Bianchi rightly points out that, given the ethical and practical
undertones of what have also been called speculative happiness or mental
happiness12, there are other sources which may have served the purpose of sketching an
idea of philosophy as the experience of a contemplative way of life. Here he points to the
Byzantine commentators on the Nicomachean Ethics, Eustratius of Nicaea and Michael
of Ephesus. In the end, Bianchi claims, we also have formulas like copulatio or
coniunctio, which could resemble similar arguments to be found in the Latin translation
of Arabic sources, in the Latin translation of Eustratius commentary on book I of the
Nicomachean Ethics13. Moreover, according to Bianchi, the Byzantine commentators also
emphasise the idea of intellectualis vita, the idea that rational activity makes man truly
and authentically man, which closely resembles certain arguments put forward in
Boethius of Dacias De summo bono14.
It is as yet too early to say whether or not Bianchis intuition will prove fruitful; the
author himself seems to be cautious in suggesting the possibility of a direct influence of
the Byzantine commentators on the NE on Boethius of Dacia and on other so-called
averroists, neither to be linked immediately to Alberts elaboration of the topic of the
intellectual happiness nor to Alberts reading of Arabic or Greek source material, like
Eustratius of Nicaea. What one can say is that scholars do not even agree about Alberts
view on the topic at stake, namely, the nature and character of the Albertinian theory of

A. DE LIBERA, Raison et foi, Archologie dune crise dAlbert le Grand Jean Paul II, Paris 2993, 322.
G. FIORAVANTI, La felicit intellettuale: storiografia e precisazioni, in M. BETTETINI/F.D. PAPARELLA,
Le felicit nel medioevo, Atti del Convegno delle Societ italiana per lo Studio del Pensiero Medievale
(S.I.S.P.M.), Milano 12-13 settembre 2003, Louvain-la-Neuve 2005, 1-34; cf. also. L. BIANCHI, Filosofi,
uomini e bruti. Note per la storia di unantropologia averroista, Rinascimento, Seconda serie, 32
(1992), 185-201.
11
L. BIANCHI, Felicit intellettuale, ascetismo e arabismo, in BETTETINI/PAPARELLA, Le felicit cit.,
13-34; cf. also L. BIANCHI, Boce de dacie et lEthique Nicomaque, Documenti e Studi sulla Tradizione
Filosofica Medievale, 17 (2006), 231-248.
12
As well known these expressions were first coined by Corti in 1983; cf. M. CORTI, La felicit mentale.
Nuove prospettive per Cavalcanti e Dante, Torino 1983.
13
Cf. also BIANCHI, Felicit intellettuale cit., 31, n. 48.
14
A.J. CELANO, Boethius of Dacia: On the Highest Good, Traditio, 43 (1987), 199-214, 206.
10

happiness, i.e. whether this form of contemplative happiness involves a purely rational
effort by human beings or a form of mystical union15.
Given that we do not here intend to make a survey of this topic, it is sufficient that
we remember that the notion of intellectus possessus elaborated by Albert and regarded
by him as the Greek term corresponding to the Arabic notion of intellectus adeptus is
essential for the whole Albertinian theory of contemplative happiness, being the idea of
conjunction between the human intellect and the separate substances and God. This
statement is even more relevant if one bears in mind that, as we will show in the present
paper, the notion of intellectus possessus seems solely terminologically referable,
among the Greek thinkers mentioned by Albert, to Eustratius of Nicaea.

2. Albert the Great on the Greek notion of intellectus possessus


As stated above, the names of these two Byzantine Aristotle commentators are to be
found in Albert the Great concerning that particular state of the intellect which he labels
as possessus. These references are to be found in arguments dealing directly with the
topic of contemplative happiness. A brief reconstruction of the two main passages in
which Albert mentions Eustratius and Michael in relation to the notion of intellectus
adeptus/possessus follows.
In his De XV problematibus, Albert first introduces what he calls the standard
ancient position of all Peripatetics as determined by Alfarabi. Here, the author is referring
to the idea that the potential intellect is the species of all intelligibles, though it is not
entirely in material potency in regard thereto. Albert elaborates this argument further by
mentioning the Graeci sapientes, namely Porphyry, Eustratius of Nicaea, Aspasius,
Michael of Ephesus, and all others following Alexander of Aphrodisias (who is said to be
in agreement with Epicurus). They all share the characterization of the human intellect as
possessus. Possessus is, according to Albert, a term peculiar to the Greek philosophical
tradition. However, Albert makes it clear that the term possessus employed by the
Greeks has the same meaning as the term adeptus used by Arabic philosophers in
regard to the same status of the human intellect. Both terms, possessus and adeptus,
refer to one and the same idea: that which is possessus is other and different in nature
from the subject possessing this or that disposition (aliud est et alterius naturae a
possidente)16.
In a well-known passage of his De anima, Albert proposes a similar scheme and a
similar explanation of the concept of adeptus/possessus in the case of the human intellect.
In discussing the way in which the conjunction between the potential and the agent
intellect takes place, Albert refers to one of the main points of his theory on the intellect,
15

For an overview of the different opinions on the nature of Alberts theory of contemplative happiness, cf.
J. MLLER, Natrliche Moral und philosophische Ethik bei Albertus Magnus, Mnster 2001, 80-135.
16
ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De XV problematibus, Opera Omnia XVII,1, 1975, 32,62-71: Hoc igitur omnium
Peripateticorum antiqua est positio, secundum quod eam Alfarabius determinavit. Ex qua sequitur
intellectum possibilem intellegibilium omnium esse speciem et non omnino potentiam esse materialem ad
ipsa. Post hoc Graeci sapientes, Porphyrius scilicet et Eustratius, Aspasius et Michael Ephesius et quam
plures alii venerunt praeter Alexandrum, qui Epicuro consentit, qui omnes intellectum hominis intellectum
possessum et non de natura intelligentiae existentem esse dixerunt. Et quem Graeci sapientes possessum,
eundem Arabum philosophi Avicenna, Averroes, Abubacher et quidam alii adeptum esse dicebant, quia id
quod possessum est, aliud est et alterius naturae a possidente..

namely, the idea that the agent intellect does not act as a mere efficient cause of our
knowledge, but acts beyond this towards the potential intellect as its formal cause, as a
form acting upon its matter (sicut forma materiae)17. The intellectus adeptus, which can
also be called possessus, according to Albert, is the result of precisely this composition
between the agent intellect and the potential one, evidently following a process of
progressive actualization of mans intellectual potentialities. It is through this particular
compound (compositum) that we achieve our proper nature and essence as man fully, and
are allowed the intellection of separate substances (intelligere separata)18. Albert ascribes
this form of conjunction to book X of the Nicomachean Ethics, where Aristotle describes
the intellect as our most divine part and contemplation as the highest activity which can
be performed by a human being19. Albert ascribes the idea of a formal conjunction
between the agent and potential intellect to Aristotle himself, remarking that this very
same type of conjunction can also be found in the above mentioned Eustratius of Nicaea
and Michael of Ephesus20.
These two passages are well known to most specialists. Needless to say, Alberts
theory of the intellect entails a series of aspects whose complexity cannot be treated here.
Problems like the relation between the doctrine expounded by Albert in his philosophical
works and the one to be found in his theological one, as well as the problem of the
different chronological phases of the Albertinian elaboration of his main standpoints, go
beyond the scope of this paper21. Nevertheless, the reasons why Albert mentions
Eustratius in regard to the status of the intellect which he calls possessus have still not
been studied by modern scholarship and deserve great attention. These reasons, as I will
try to show, are related to the sources employed by Eustratius in order to construct the
main arguments in his commentary on book VI of the Nicomachean Ethics, in particular
the Neoplatonic source material22.

3. Eustratius and the intellectus possessus/pkthtoj.

17

ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De anima, III,3,11, Opera Omnia VII, pars I, 1968, 222,15-28.
On the intellectus adeptus, cf. the recent L. STURLESE, Vernunft und Glck. Die Lehre vom intellectus
adeptus und die mentale Glckseligkeit bei Albert dem Groen, Mnster 2005 (Lectio Albertina, 7).
19
ARISTOTELES, EN, X,VII,1177a13-18.
20
ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De anima, III,3,11 (Et est digressio declarans veram causam et modum
coniunctionis intellectus agentis nobiscum), Opera Omnia VII, pars I, 1968, 222,4-14: Et hoc vocatur a
philosophis moveri ad continuitatem et coniunctionem cum agente intellectu; et cum sic acceperit omnia
intelligibilia, habet lumen agentis ut formam sibi adhaerentem, et cum ipse sit lumen suum, eo quod lumen
suum est essentia sua et non est extra ipsum, tunc adhaeret intellectus agens possibili sicut forma materiae.
Et hoc sit compositum vocatur a Peripateticis intellectus adeptus et divinus; et tunc homo perfectus est ad
operandum opus illud quod est opus suum, inquantum est homo, et hoc est opus, quod operatur deus, et hoc
est perfecte per seipsum contemplari et intelligere separata. Et iste modus et ista coniunctionis concordat
cum Aristotele in X Ethicae, ubi gere dicit ista, et praecipue concordat Eustratio et Michaeli Ephesio, qui
fere in hoc sensu exponunt Aristotelem ibidem..
21
In this respect it is always useful to refer to H. ANZULEWICZ, Entwicklung und Stellung der
Intellekttheorie im System des Albertus Magnus, Archives dHistorie doctrinale et littraire du Moyen
Age, 70 (2003), 165-218.
22
Cf. MICHELE TRIZIO, Eustrazio di Nicaea, Studio storico dottrinale del commento al VI libro dellEthica
Nicomachea, doctoral dissertation, University of Bari, 2006, 116-289. Here I largely accounted for the
dependence of Eustratiuscommentary on book VI of the NE upon Proclean sources.
18

Eustratius acquaintance with Neoplatonic literature is not an entirely new issue, although
this dependence has often been described in vague terms or left unqualified. In his
monumental monograph on Michael Psellus, published in 1920, Zervos points out some
evidence of Eustratius dependence upon Proclus, linking this dependence to the same
Psellian heritage and influence on the immediately following generation of thinkers23.
However, it was through a study by Giocarinis that Eustratius positive attitude towards
Neoplatonism became evident24. This impressive study on Eustratius commentary on
NE,I,4, where the commentator criticises Aristotles arguments against the Platonic ideal
Good, could show how extensively this commentary depends upon the Neoplatonist
philosophy. In particular, as recently shown by Carlos Steel, the main source of
Eustratius own counter criticism to the Aristotelian standpoints seems to be Proclus
commentary on Platos Parmenides25. To this commentary by Proclus seems to refer the
very same periphrasis through which Eustratius introduces his counter arguments. That
is, the meaning of the attribution of these counter arguments to those around Parmenides
and Plato26, whereas neither Parmenides nor the Platonic dialogue named after him seem
to produce such a defence of the doctrine of Ideas.
In a previous article of mine I showed not only that the influence of Proclus is
consistent with both the terminology and the arguments developed by Eustratius, but also
that the presence of Proclus seems to be widespread through all the three commentaries
written by our commentator27. Focusing on the problem of the Aristotelian distinction
between absolute (plj) and conditional necessity (x poqsewj), I could show how
Eustratius interprets the distinction at stake within a non-Aristotelian framework. Despite
the complementary nature of the two kinds of necessity in Aristotle, the commentator
strictly applies absolute necessity, on the one hand, to what he calls beings in the proper
sense of the term (kurwj nta), i.e. those beings properly called so that always remain
self-identical (kurwj nta t e kat t ut ka satwj conta); and
conditional necessity, on the other, to that which is never a proper being (ntwj
odpote n), which he associates to what is subject to coming to be and passing away28.
He also collocates this particular interpretation of Aristotles different kinds of necessity
within the framework of the distinction between causes (atia) and concomitant
causes (snaitia). Only the first can be considered proper causes as they are the only
ones which transcend their effect (mna tn atiatn xrhtai)29. In both cases,

23

Cf. C. ZERVOS, Un philosophe noplatonicienne du XIe sicle: Michel Psellos, New York 1973 (II ed.),
225-227.
24
Cf. K. GIOCARINIS, Eustratios of Nicaeas Defense of the Doctrine of Ideas, Franciscan Studies, 24
(1964), 159-204; Cf also A.C. LLOYD, The Aristotelianism of Eustratios of Nicaea, in J. WIESNER,
Aristoteles, Werk and Wirkung, Mlanges P. Moraux, t. II, Berlin 1987, 341-351, 350.
25
Cf. C. STEEL, Neoplatonic Sources in the Commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics by Eustratius and
Michael of Ephesus, Bullettin de Philosophie Mdivale, 44 (2002), 51-57, in part. 52-53.
26
EUSTRATIUS, In I EN, ed. Heylbut, 49,7-11.
27
M. TRIZIO, Eustratius of Nicaea on Absolute and Conditional Necessity. A survey of the Commentary on
Book VI of the Nicomachean Ethics, Archiv fr mittelalterliche Philosophie und Kultur, XII (2006), 3563.
28
EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 293,10-20 (ed. Heylbut).
29
EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 267,18-22 (ed. Heylbut).

Proclus seems to be the ever-present shadow behind these arguments put forward by
Eustratius30.
This Proclean influence on our commentator is relevant for the discussion of the
topic of the present paper. In fact, Proclus seems to be the direct source of Eustratiuss
two main arguments, which seems to account for Alberts reference to the Byzantine
commentators on the Nicomachean Ethics when dealing with the notion of the intellectus
possessus/adeptus. As a matter of fact, there are two passages in the Latin version of
Eustratius commentary on book VI of the NE in which this notion can be found. They
correspond to 303,19-26 and 314,8-18 of the Heylbut edition. These passages are very
similar to each other. Nevertheless, it might be convenient to analyze them both.
Let us start with the first one (303,19-27, ed. Heylbut), here quoted along with the
Latin translation.
EUSTRATIUS GRAECUS, In VI EN, 303,19-27 (ed. Heylbut): gr yuc j m,n yuc
neiligmnwj nerge, sullogizomnh ka metabanousa ej sumpersmata k
protsewn, j d, metcousa no plj pibllei, cousa m,n ka tj rcj
ka toj rouj j no phcmata, ginomnh d, ka totwn pkeina, tan noer
gnhtai, toj nohtoj nohtj pibllousa, e ka m qrwj ka mo j kaq'
parxin, ll kaq' n periecomnh t pnta ka noosa kaq' kaston, di ka
toiath katstasij o fsij ll xij tj yucj nomzetai, j xwqen
peisiosa ka ginomnh pkthtoj.
EUSTRATIUS LATINUS, Eton College 122, f 110 ra: Anima enim ut quidem involute
operatur, syllogizans et transiens in conclusiones ex propositionibus, ut autem participans
intellectu simpliciter apponit, habens quidem et principia et definitiones ut intellectus,
facta autem ultra haec, cum intellectualis fiat, intellectualibus intellectualiter congruens,
si et non repente et simul ut qui secundum existentiam <...> ut ab extra superveniens et
ingrediens et facta possessa..
This passage represents nothing more than an interweaving puzzle of quotations taken
from Proclus. The soul qua soul possesses the intelligibles in an unfolded manner
(neiligmnwj/involute), that is to say within the dimension of discursive reasoning,
which acts syllogistically (sullogizomnh/syllogizans), passing from the order of
premises to the order of conclusions (metabanousa ej sumpersmata k
protsewn/transiens in conclusiones ex propositionibus). It means that at first the soul
possesses the intelligibles in a divisive, non-coordinated, and non-articulate manner. But
the soul when participating of the Intellect can grasp the intelligibles by means of direct
apprehensions (plj pibllei/simpliciter apponit). In this way the soul somehow
transcends the dimension of discursive reasoning, thus beginning to recollect the
intelligible contents that it has itself possessed since the beginning.
This basic description of the twofold manner in which the soul relates to the
intelligibles in the process of concept formation, passing from discursive to nondiscursive thought, is nothing but a summary made up of technical terms and expressions
30

EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 267,19-22 (ed. Heylbut): tj m,n gr gnsewj rca o roi ka t


ximata p ge tn nagkawn, tj d, prxewj t poihtik ka t telik. tata gr mna
kurwj atia, ti ka mna tn atiatn xrhtai. = PROCLUS, Elementatio theologica, 75 (ed.
Dodds): Pn t kurwj ation
ati legmenon xrhtai to potelsmatoj.

to be found in Proclus works31. Even the very same structure of the argument seems to
be borrowed entirely from Proclus. As a matter of fact, Eustratius emphasises the
distinction between, on the one hand, the soul qua soul (j m,n yuc), which acts by
passing (metabanousa) from the premises to the consequences within the sequence of a
syllogism, and on the other, the soul as participating in the Nous (j d, metcousa
no), thus being capable of grasping the intelligibles in an immediate and direct way
(plj pibllei). If one turns to Proclus commentary on the Timaeus he will find the
very same argument in regard to the ways in which the logos can attain the knowledge of
the eternal Being (t e n)32. The logos qua logos (j m,n lgoj) acts by passing
from (metabatikj) one content to the other within the discursive and analogical
reasoning; on the contrary, the logos in its intellectual activity proper (j d, non) acts
in a simple (met plthtoj) and direct way.
Nevertheless, as known to the specialists of Proclus, the latter would have stressed
that even after recollection, when the passage from discursive to non-discursive thought
takes place, our knowledge of the intelligibles remains somehow metabatikj33. If
before, within discursive reasoning, we were forced to pass from the order to the
premises to the one of the conclusions as a result of the dianoetic activity of the soul, the
present direct grasping of the intelligibles still cannot attain simultaneous and unified
knowledge of them: the particular souls can grasp the intelligibles only one by one, one
after the other, running around the Intellect and dancing around it in a circle, as Eustratius
himself had previously said in his commentary on book I of the NE (47,4-11, ed.
Heylbut), literally quoting from Proclus commentary on the Parmenides34. It is not the
case that in the passage we are analyzing, Eustratius also follows an argument from
Proclus commentary on the Parmenides closely in order to emphasise the fact that the
soul cannot grasp the intelligibles simultaneously nor all at once (m qrwj ka
mo)35; on the contrary, the soul can embrace all the intelligibles singularly (kaq' n
periecomnh t pnta), grasping and thinking them one by one, one after the other
(noosa kaq' kaston)36.
31

The idea that the soul is all forms in an unfolded manner (neiligmnwj) can be found in PROCLUS, In
Eucl., 16,10-16 (ed. Friedlein); In Tim., 1,342,16 (ed. Diehl). For non-discursive reasoning as proceeding
through direct apprehensions or direct grasping of the intelligibles (plj pibllei/toj nohtoj
nohtj pibllousa) see PROCLUS, In Parm., 704,28-34 (ed. Cousin); In I Alc., 246,15-18 (ed.
Westerink); In Tim., 2,313,13-15 (ed. Diehl); Eclogae de philosophia Chaldaica, fr.4,1-4 (ed. Des Places).
32
EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 303,19-21 (ed. Heylbut): gr yuc j m,n yuc neiligmnwj nerge,
sullogizomnh ka metabanousa ej sumpersmata k protsewn, j d, metcousa no plj
pibllei. = PROCLUS, In Tim., 1,246,5-7: j m,n lgoj nerge metabatikj,
j d, non met
metaba
The expression metcousa no, referred to the particular soul (and not to the divine ones) in
plthtoj.
pl
its participation in the Intellect, is to be found in many Proclean passages literally. Cf. PROCLUS, Theol.
Plat, 3,21,26-27 (ed. Saffrey-Westerink); 5,85,24. The same expression also occurrs in the specific case of
the divine souls, like in PROCLUS, El. Theol., 182,8-10.
33
Cf e.g. PROCLUS, Theol. Plat., 4,43,20-22 (ed. Saffrey-Westerink); In Tim., 1,219,1-3 (ed. Diehl);
2,219,4-5.
34
Cf. STEEL, Neoplatonic Sources cit., 52-53.
35
EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 303,23-24 (ed. Heylbut): e ka m qrwj ka mo...= In Parm., 1165,24-25
(ed. Cousin): ote gr lhn atn (scil. the soul) mo toj to no pargein nomasin: o gr
qrwj at pfuken rn.
36
EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 303,24-25 (ed. Heylbut): kaq' n periecomnh t pnta ka noosa kaq'
kaston. = PROCLUS, In Parm., 808,12-14 (ed. Cousin): kaqorsa (scil. the particular soul) d, ka
kaston tn llwn, ka kaq' n pnta ka oc' mo pnta noosa.
noosa

What is interesting here is that Eustratius compares the way in which the particular
soul possesses the intelligibles with the way in which the intelligibles are embraced and
grasped by what he calls the Intellect by existence ( kaq' parxin /qui secundum
existentiam). It is clear that if the particular souls can grasp the intelligibles only one after
the other, then the Intellect secundum existentiam embraces them in a simultaneous,
concentrated, and unified manner. Elsewhere37, the commentator elaborates this different
possession of the intelligibles further, freely borrowing a distinction between a noj kat'
osan/intellectus secundum substantiam and a noj kaq' xin/intellectus secundum
habitum from an argument available in Proclus commentary on the Timaeus38. Proclus
describes the latter status as being that disposition by means of which the soul becomes
intelligent. Eustratius simply extends this description, which Proclus specifically refers to
the case of the World-Soul, to the cases of individual particular souls, evidently on the
grounds that what is valid for the World-Soul must also be considered valid for the lower
realms, namely, for the individual and particular souls.
This conceptual diptych of noj kat' osan and noj kaq' xin is used by
Eustratius to describe, again in terms which closely resemble several Proclean arguments,
the difference in possession of the intelligibles between the separate Nous and the
particular souls. The first possesses all the intelligibles in-itself (pnta cwn n aut
t gnwst)39, grasping them by means of a direct and simultaneous act of intellection
(plaj pibolaj ka qroij katalambnwn at)40, never losing or abandoning
them (odpote xstatai p' atn)41. The second is characterized by a dispositional
status (kaq' xin), and by its discursive activity, which has the common notions in the
realm of syllogistic argumentation as its starting point42.
Nevertheless, the intellect also possesses innate contents, which Eustratius describes
as certain echoes in it of an absolutely existing Intellect (phcmat tina n aut
to plj prcontoj no). This description of the innate knowledge in us is again
rooted in Proclus43, and it also occurs in the passage previously subject to my analysis
(303,19-23, ed. Heylbut). In his Super Ethica Albert discusses this latter expression used
37

EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 317,19-23 (ed. Heylbut): m,n gr kat' osan noj pnta cwn n aut
t gnwst ka plaj pibolaj ka qroij katalambnwn at odpote xstatai p' atn,
d, n mn noj kaq' xin cwn t enai, mnaj cei x rcj tj koinj nnoaj okea
nergmata ka nomata phcmat tina n aut to plj prcontoj no.
38
PROCLUS, In Tim., 2,313,1-4 (ed. Diehl). Cf. also In I Alc., 65,19-66,6 (ed. Westerink).
39
Cf. e.g. PROCLUS, El. Theol., prop. 194 (ed. Dodds): Psa yuc pnta cei t edh, noj
prtwj cei.
40
Cf. n. 32 and 37.
41
Cf. PROCLUS, In I Alc., 188,8-11 (ed. Westerink): ote gr t krettona gnh tj metraj yucj
di maqsewj ersewj tugcnei tj autn teleithtoj: e gr snesti toj autn
gnwstoj ka odpote fstatai
statai atn od, nde ggnetai tj okeaj gnsewj. In this passage
Proclus claims that the classes superior to our soul do not attain perfection through a learning process, for
they are always united to their objects of knowledge and they never leave them (odpote fstatai
atn).
42
The term common notions (koina nnoiai) used to describe the starting points of discursive
reasoning and the principles of scientific demonstrations is very common in the Neoplatonic literature. Cf
e.g. SYRIANUS, In Met. (ed. Kroll.), 18,9-10; 21,31-34; PROCLUS, In I Eucl., (ed. Friedlein), 240,11-14;
AMMONIUS, In de Int., 7,16-22 (ed. Busse); ASCLEPIUS, In Met., 158,11-13 (ed. Hayduck); JOANNES
PHILOPONUS, In A.pr., 2,24-27 (ed. Wallies). Cf. also D.J. OMEARA, Le problme de la mtaphysique dans
l'antiquit tardive, Freiburger Zeitschrift fr Philosophie und Theologie, 33 (1986), 1-14, 12-13.
43
See for instance PROCLUS, In I Alc., 99,13-19 (ed. Westerink).

by Eustratius at length, rightly pointing out that it should be understood within the
distinction between the possession of the intelligible forms in the separate intelligences
and in the human intellect. Forms are to be found in us as a kind of resonance (per
redundantiam) of the forms to be found in the separate intelligences, which are the
sources from which they are emanated (sicut in fonte profundente eas)44. But
nevertheless, Albert seems to diverge in opinion from Eustratius as he claims that these
echoes are not the substance of our intellect (substantia intellectus nostri), but almost an
accident in the soul (accidens in anima), insofar as we are generally forced to attain the
knowledge of the forms from the particular individuals45. On the contrary, all the
evidence suggests that according to Eustratius the echoes in us of an absolutely existing
Intellect are to be linked to the logoi ousiodeis of the Neoplatonic tradition46, the logoi
which Proclus, for example, describes as a kind of breathing thought in us47, and which
the soul literally projects before itself within distinct and articulated acts48. Eustratius
reference to the echoes in us of an absolutely existing Intellect reflects the idea that the
soul proceeds from the Intellect, preserving the character of its cause, though only
secondarily49. This is why the Intellect is all forms in a unified and concentrated manner,
whereas the soul is all forms in a discursive, analogical, and unfolding manner. The
presence of echoes in us of an absolutely existing Intellect relates to precisely this
principle, namely, that in the particular souls the indivisible forms have become logoi.
These logoi are ousiodeis, in the sense that, far from being mere accidents of the soul, as
stated by Albert, they constitute the very essence of the soul itself.
What is more interesting is the way in which Eustratius describes the intellectual
state which he calls kaq' xin, for it relates directly to the Albertinian notion of
intellectus possessus. In the passage previously analyzed (303,19-27, ed. Heylbut), after
stressing the different kinds of possession of the intelligibles between the particular soul
and what he calls Intellect by existence (kaq' parxin), he claims that the expression
intellect by disposition (kaq' xin) refers to a condition (katstasij) of our soul
which is as such neither natural (o fsij) nor essential, but merely dispositional.
Dispositional means, Eustratius explains, that this condition comes over the soul from
outside (xwqen peisiosa/ab extra superveniens) thus becoming acquired
(ginomnh pkthtoj/facta possessa).
The Greek term pkthtoj, acquired or possessed, is rendered as Grossetesta as
possessa. The feminine is easily explainable here by the fact that possessa refers to the
soul (anima) in its participation in the Intellect (participans intellectu). But, as it is clear
from the text, the term pkthtoj/possessa is explanatory of the term xij /dispositio in

44

ALBERTUS MAGNUS, Super Ethica, Opera Omnia XIV,2, 1987, liber VI, lectio VIII, 452,46-50.
ALBERTUS MAGNUS, Super Ethica, Opera Omnia XIV,2, 1987, liber VI, lectio VIII, 452,50-52.
46
Cf. C. STEEL, Breathing Thought: Proclus on the Innate Knowledge of the Soul, in J.J. O CLEARY (ed.),
The Perennial Tradition of Neoplatonism, Leuven 1997, 293-309, 295-299.
47
Cf. PROCLUS, In I Alc., 192,2-4 (ed. Westerink)
48
Cf. PROCLUS, In Eucl., 17,4-5; 46,12-13 (ed. Friedlein); In Parm., 896,1-4 (ed. Cousin).
49
Other passages in Eustratius in which the terms phcmata occurs in a similar context are: EUSTRATIUS,
In II An., 222,24-25 (ed. Hayduck); 257,37-38; In VI EN, 315,33-34 (ed. Heylbut), 377,37; 379,29-30. In
all these passages the expression is referred to the common notions or the axioms upon which discursive
reasoning depends. It means that the expression at stake already refers to the unfolding and discursive
manner in which innate knowledge is present in our soul. Cf. also. K. IERODIAKONOU, Metaphysics in the
Byzantine Tradition: Eustratios of Nicaea on Universals, Quaestio, 5 (2006), 67-82, in part. 81, n. 30.
45

10

regard to the expression noj kaq' xin. Briefly: the two expressions mean one and the
same thing.
As already shown, this Eustratius passage is heavily influenced by Proclean
arguments. The description of the dispositional status of our intellect as acquired or
possessed does not represent an exception. The term pkthtoj can often be found in
Proclus as a description of a state or condition that does not belong to something
substantially, but only in a participating or dispositional manner. For example, in his
commentary on the Republic, Proclus claims that every God is essentially or substantially
(ntwj) good, insofar as it is constituted in his substance (osiwmnoj) according to the
good, and it does not possess the good as something acquired (pkthton) or as a
disposition (j xin). In fact, continues Proclus, that which is good in this latter way is
neither essentially nor truly good (t nti), but has only participated in the good (to
gaqo metscen)50. Even more striking is a passage from Proclus commentary on the
Timaeus, for it relates directly to the problem of the different types of knowledge to be
found in the particular souls and in the higher order of realities. The arguments at stake
run as follow: if knowledge among the Gods is belongs to them essentially and
substantially (kat' osan), and if their intellection is not acquired (pkthtoj), then
they will know what they know in a way coordinated to their essence51.
Eustratius description of the dispositional state of our intellect as acquired or
possessed is borrowed from Proclus in its entirety. The commentator simply applies the
general Proclean conceptual opposition kat' osan - pkthtoj to the specific case of
the different status and nature of the separate Nous and the human intellect. This
description has to be understood within a Neoplatonic metaphysical framework, which
can once again be traced back to Proclus, characterized by the distinction between that
which exists and acts by its own essence and that which exists or acts by participation.
As shown before, the term pkthtoj is to be found in Proclus as opposed to kat'
osan, referring to the distinction between a participatory or dispositional character to
the possession of a property vis--vis the essential possession of this or that property, as is
clear from the Proclean passages mentioned previously. The same can be said for the
notion of kaq' parxin, which Eustratius associates with the Intellect that he also
defines, as we have seen, as kat' osan, or kurwj or krioj noj, referring to the
Supreme Intellect52. As a matter of fact, the concept of kaq' parxin - referred to the
separate Intellect by Eustratius which is to be understood as the essential possession of
the proper mode determining a character, is to be found in Proclus within a threefold
distinction of the modes in which characters exist, namely in their causes (kat' atan),
substantially or existentially (kaq' parxin), and by participation (kat mqexin)53. Or,
and this resembles the case of Eustratius more closely, Proclus simply refers to the
50

PROCLUS, In Remp., 1,28,17-20 (ed. Kroll).


PROCLUS, In Tim., 1,352,19-22 (ed. Diehl). However, it is also true that in the Elements of Theology
Proclus clearly states that since the substance of every God is supra-substantial goodness, he has goodness
neither as a disposition (kaq' xin) nor substantially or essentially (kat' osan), but in a supra-substantial
manner. Cf. PROCLUS, El. Theol., 119,16-19 (ed. Dodds).
52
EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 314,16 (ed. Heylbut); 317,27.
53
PROCLUS, El. Theol., 65 (ed. Dodds); 140,17-18. On this topic, cf. C STEEL, UPARXIS chez Proclus, in
F. ROMANO/D.P. TAORMINA (eds.), Hyparxis e Hypostasis nel nel neoplatonismo, Atti del I Colloquio
Internazionale del Centro di Ricerca sul Neoplatonismo, Universit degli Studi di Catania, 1-3 ottobre
1992, Firenze 1994, 79-100.
51

11

opposition kaq' parxin - kat mqexin, indipendently from from the general
description of the Triadic structure of Reality, in order to draw a more general distinction
between the substantial inherence of a character or property as opposed to possession
through mere participation in the same character54. It is therefore unsurprising that
Eustratius himself refers to this Proclean principle in comparing the Intellect kaq'
parxin, the absolutely (plj) existing one, with the intellect by disposition, the
previously seen noj kaq' xin. The commentator confirms that this distinction has to be
understood within the more general distinction between essential and participatory modes
of existence of a character as he explicitly states that our intellect is neither absolute nor
by existence, but by disposition, kaq' xin, where the latter expression has to be strictly
understood as kat mqexin, i.e. by participation55.
The second passage (314,8-18) by Eustratius in which the Latin term possessus
appears shows many similarities to the one seen previously (303,19-27). As a matter of
fact, Eustratius also stresses the different manner in which the intelligibles are to be
found in the Supreme Intellect (krioj noj) and in the particular soul here56. Proclus is
once again the main source for the argument at stake. When pure and free from the
passions (kaqar gr genomnh ka leuqra tn paqn yuc)57 the soul is
illuminated because of the proximity to the Intellect (llmpetai m,n t prj non
geitnisei /resplendet ea quae ad intellectum vicinitate), thus acquiring or receiving the
capacity of acting in a purely intellectual way (noerj/intellectualiter), and no longer in
a merely discursive manner. It can therefore grasp the intelligibles by means of direct
apprehensions, though neither simultaneously nor all at once, but dancing around the
Intellect (tn non pericoreousa) and moving (metabanousa) from one intelligible
to the other.
Two things are interesting in this passage. The first one is the reference to the
illumination affecting the soul as it acts in a purely intellectual manner. In fact, as the
Proclus specialist is aware, the expression kat' llamyin, by illumination or
irradiation, is linked to the notion of kaq' xin, by disposition, at least once in
54

Cf. e.g. PROCLUS, In I Alc., 104,7-8 (ed. Westerink). Here the Gods are said to be self-sufficient kaq'
parxin, whereas the other things are self-sufficient kat mqexin.
55
EUSTRATIUS, IN VI EN, 303,16-17 (ed- Heylbut).
56
EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, ed. Heylbut, 314,8-18: e gr ka noern lgei tn yucn ka non
prcein fhsn n at, ll' ok osiwdj prcein n at tn non tqetai, ll ge kthtn
ka j xin piginmenon, kaq ka prteron erhtai. di toto ka taj lhqeutikaj xesin
atn sunhrqmhsen, rn atn ka ktmenon xwqen ka poballmenon. kaqar gr genomnh
ka leuqra tn paqn yuc, llmpetai m,n t prj non geitnisei, dcetai d, keqen t
noerj nergen, ka otw tn tn ntwn proslambnei katlhyin plaj pibolaj faptomnh
atn, ok qron j krioj noj od, pntwn mo, ll kaq' n kaston atn tn non
pericoreousa ka x trwn tn p' ato nooumnwn ej teron metabanousa. = EUSTRATIUS
LATINUS, Eton College 122, f 112 va: Etsi enim intellectualem dicit animam et intellectum existere ait in
ipsa, sed non substantialiter existere in ipsa intellectum ponit, sed possessum et ut habitum supervenientem,
quemadmodum et prius dictum est, propter hoc et veridicis habitibus ipsum conumeravit, videns ipsum et
possessum ab extra et depositum. Pura enim facta et libera a passionibus anima resplendet ea quae ad
intellectum vicinitate, recipit autem illinc intellectualiter operari, et sic entium assumit comprehensionem
simplicibus appositionibus contingens ipsa, non repente ut proprie intellectus neque omnia simul, sed
secundum unumquodque ipsorum intellectum circumambulans et ex alteris quae ab ipso intellectu
intelliguntur in alterum transiens.
57
Cf. PROCLUS, El. Theol., 209 (ed. Dodds). A reference to this very same argument by Proclus is to be
found also in EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 317,24-25.

12

Proclus works. This connection can be found in Proclus commentary on the Alcibiades,
where Proclus re-examines the threefold distinction of the types of intellect already
discussed in his commentary on the Timaeus58, from the point of view of the three types
of love. The third one is the one which subsists in the soul by illumination (kat'
llamyin), corresponding to the intellect by disposition (kaq' xin). This reference
cannot be casual, especially if one bears in mind that the illumination of the soul which
grants it the possibility of acting intellectually is due to what Eustratius calls the
proximity to the Intellect (t prj non geitnisei). This expression is literally
borrowed from Proclus Platonic Theology59, and serves to stress the participatory and
dispositional character of the intellectual operation proper to the particular souls within
the argument expounded by Eustratius once again.
The second interesting element is more directly related to the topic of the intellect
by disposition. Eustratius ascribes this particular characterization of the intellect to
Aristotle himself. As a matter of fact, in book VI of the NE, the intellect is defined by
Aristotle, along with Art, Science, Practical Wisdom, and Wisdom, as a truth attaining
disposition( xij)60. The commentator claims that according to Aristotle the intellect is
actually a disposition like the other four insofar as it is acquired from outside (ktmenon
xwqen) and can also be lost (poballmenon). But what is surprising here is that what
Eustratius ascribes directly to Aristotle is expressed with the words and arguments of
Proclus.
Actually, the argument expounded by Eustratius here is almost identical to the one
seen previously. The intellect does not subsist in the soul essentially (osiwdj
/substantialiter), but as something acquired (kthtn/possessus), a supervening
disposition (j xin piginmenon). The term kthtn is synonymous with pkthtoj,
and like pkthtoj is rendered by Grosseteste as possessum. In this context it has the
same function as pkthtoj did in the previous passage, namely, to characterise the
intellectual activity of the particular souls as participatory and dispositional, as opposed
to the essential (osiwdj/kat' osan) possession of this very same property. The
same is true of the expression j xin piginmenon, which closely resembles the
expression j xwqen peisiosa employed by Eustratius in the first passage analysed
here, and which immediately precedes the expression pkthtoj.
The Proclean background of these arguments now seems to be clear. If possible,
one could even add that the two expressions, j xin piginmenon and j xwqen
peisiosa, to be found in the two different Eustratius passages under discussion here,
appear almost literally in Proclus in one and the same passage from his commentary on
the Parmenides61. Here Proclus distinguishes between two types of Multiplicity among
beings, the first one essential, and the other that supervenes from outside and is
adventitious (xwqen pigignmenon ka peisodidej). In this respect, these two
terms are closely related to the form gggnesqai used by Proclus to describe generally
58

Cf. n. 38.
PROCLUS, Theol. Plat., 1,66,20-23 (ed. Saffrey-Westerink): yuc d, atoknhtoj osa tj kat
non metcei zwj ka kat crnon nergosa t tj nergeaj pauston ka tn grupnon zwn
k tj prj tn non cei geitnisewj.
The same expression occurrs in EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 317,28geitnise
30 (ed. Heylbut).
60
ARISTOTELES, EN,VI,3,1139b14-17.
61
PROCLUS, In Parm., 1187,41-1188,3 (ed. Cousin). Cf. also MICHAEL PSELLUS, Theologica, 4,28-29 (ed.
Gautier).
59

13

that which comes into being in the soul from outside, like, for example, those concepts
(nomata) which are the result of an abstractive process from sensible particulars and
which do not subsist (kat' osan) in our soul essentially62.
It seems that in general Eustratius simply applies terms and expressions used by
Proclus to describe the different types of existence and the different manners which a
character possesses in the specific case of the different types of intellect. What is clear is
that when Albert refers the notion of intellectus possessus to the Byzantine commentators
on the Nicomachean Ethics, as the general Greek counterpart of the Arabic notion of
intellectus adeptus, he is probably referring to the two Eustratius passages mentioned
here.
It might be objected that the notion of noj kaq' xin, which lies behind the notion
of intellectus possessus, is not peculiar to Eustratius, but is also to be found in other LateAncient commentators. True, the expression noj kaq' xin occurs in many relevant
passages in Alexander of Aphrodisias commentary on the De Anima63, as well as in
Themistius64 paraphrase of the same work, and in Philoponus own commentary65.
Nevertheless, according to these commentators, this expression generally refers to that
particular state of the human intellect when it possesses a series of thoughts without
actually thinking them66, although in Aristotles De anima (3,5,430a15) the term xij
also seems to refer to the active intellect directly67.
It might also be objected that in one passage of Alexander of Aphrodisias De
anima one can find a description of the noj kaq' xin that appears to be similar to the
one produced by Eustratius. Actually, Alexander distinguishes between an intellect which
he calls natural (fusikj) or material (likj), common to all men who are not
physically incapacitated (n psin toj m pephrwmnoij), and one that is acquired
(pkthtoj), which comes to be only afterwards (steron gginmenoj), and which
Alexander calls form (edoj) and disposition or habit (xij), i.e. the perfection of
the natural and material intellect (teleithj to fusiko)68. In this passage the term
pkthtoj, which Eustratius borrows from Proclus, and the expression steron
gginmenoj, similar to the forms j xin piginmenon and j xwqen peisiosa,
which are also in Eustratius via Proclus, also characterise Alexanders notion of noj
kaq' xin. But, again, despite the occurrences of the same terms, it is clear that the
intellect in habit or by disposition at stake here is not the same one as Eustratius is
referring to. Alexander speaks of that habit or disposition which happens to be in those
who go through a process of practice and learning69. On the contrary, Eustratius notion
62

PROCLUS, In Parm., 892,17-19 (ed. Cousin).


ALEXANDER APHRODISIENSIS, De anima, 86,5 (ed. Bruns); 88,6; De anima libri Mantissa, 107,20-21 (ed.
Bruns).
64
THEMISTIUS, In Aristotelis libros de anima paraphrasis, 95,30-31 (ed. Heinze); 98,21-24; 100,2-3;
65
JOAHNNES PHILOPONUS, In Aristotelis libros de anima commentaria, 490,27 (ed. Hayduck).
66
For some exceptions to this general trend, see H.A. DAVIDSON, Alfarabi, Avicenna, & Averroes, on
Intellect. Their Cosmologies, Theories of the Active Intellect. & Theories of Human Intellect, New YorkOxford 1992, 10, n. 22.
67
ARISTOTELES, De anima, 3,5,430a14-15: ka stin m,n toiotoj noj t pnta gnesqai, d, t
pnta poien, j xij tij, oon t fj.
68
ALEXANDER APHRODISIENSIS, De anima, 81,26-82,1 (ed. Bruns).
69
A different interpretation of Alexander reference to the acquired (pkthtoj) character of the intellect is
to be found in M. GEOFFROY, La tradition arabe du Per no dAlexandre dAphrodise, in C.
DANCONA/G. SERRA (eds.), Aristotele e Alessandro dAfrodisia nella tradizione araba, Aristotele e
63

14

of noj kaq' xin/pkthtoj refers, as previously shown, to the participatory character


of the intellectual operation proper to the particular soul, and it cannot therefore be
assimilated with the analogous notion to be found in Alexander. The very same reference
to the concept of kat mqexin explaining the expression kaq' xin seems to leave no
doubt on the Neoplatonic, and particularly Proclean root of Eustratius description of the
dispositional intellect. As a matter of fact, the same Albert, who, moreover, could not
have read Alexander of Aphrodisias De anima, reflects Eustratius emphasis on the
adventitious and acquired character of the intellect by disposition as he claims that id
quod possessum est, aliud est et alterius naturae a possidente.70.

4. Alberts reading of Eustratius intellect theory


There are some relevant observations to be made regarding Alberts reading of these and
others of Eustratius passages from his commentary on book VI of the NE. Most of them
are strictly related to the topic of the different states of intellect, specifically concerning
the intellects which Grosseteste renders as secundum substantiam or secundum
existentiam, on the one hand, and secundum habitum, on the other.
First of all, Albert must without doubt have found the general Neoplatonic flavour
of certain arguments expounded by Eustratius attractive, insofar as they show apparent
affinities to arguments and formulas found in the Latin translations of certain Arabic
philosophical works. For instance, Eustratius reference to the different modes of
possessions of the intelligible in the separate Nous (concentrated, simultaneous, and
united), and in the particular soul (non-coordinated and discursive) fits in with similar but
more general arguments in the Liber de Causis, for example, which concerns the different
degrees of universality possessed by the intelligible contents in the various separate
intelligences, as well as in Alberts reading of these arguments in the De causis et
processu universitatis a prima causa71.
In the latter work Albert literally recalls Eustratius distinction between the two
different statuses of the separate Nous and the particular soul, as he identifies Eustratius
intellectus secundum substantiam with the notion of intellectus per essentiam72, i.e. that
intellect which is always in act and identical to its thoughts, as a state belonging to the

Alessandro dAfrodisia nella tradizione araba, Padova 2002, 191-231, 217, in which the author interprets
the terms pkthtoj as referring to the qraqen of Aristotles agent intellect. However, I am not sure that
this, at least in De anima 81,26-82,1, is truly the case. My interpretation of Alexanders reference to the
term pkthtoj is also confirmed in DAVIDSON, Alfarabi cit., 10-12 and in DE LIBERA, Albert le Grand cit.,
254-255.
70
ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De XV problematibus, Opera Omnia XVII,1, 1975, 32,70-71 (quoted in full at n.
10).
71
Cf. e.g. Liber de Causis, IX,8-23 (ed. Pattin); ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De causis et processu universitatis a
prima causa, Opera Omnia XVII,2, 2,2,22,4-14. On this topic see E. COCCIA, Intellectus sive intelligentia.
Alberto Magno, Avverro e la noetica degli arabi, Freiburger Zeitschrift fr Philosphie und Theologie,
53, 1/2, (2006), 133-187.
72
On this notion see ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De Intellectu et Intelliggibili, Opera Omnia IX, ed. Borgnet,
Paris 1890, 507b.

15

intellectus universaliter agens73, as opposed to the intellectus possessus, which can only
perform its operation in an imperfect manner, according to its proper limit and capacity74.
In making his point Alberts argument is reminiscent of Eustratius description of the
different modes of existence and operation of the separate Nous and the human intellect.
For example, other formulas employed by Eustratius seem to match Alberts own
habit of refering to concepts and notions related to the category of emanationism. As we
have already seen, Eustratius develops an argument according to which the illumination
of the soul, which grants it the possibility of performing an intellectual operation, is due
to the proximity to the Intellect (t prj tn non geitnisei). Elsewhere he refers to
the latter expression, borrowed from Proclus Platonic Theology75, within a more general
argument on the status of the human intellect in regard to the nature and function of the
whole process of causation76. Through the proximity to the Intellect (t prj tn non
geitnisei/quae ad intellectum vicinitate), Eustratius claims, the particular human soul
acquires a certain intellectual capacity by participating in a principle superior in rank to
itself (to p,r atn tetagmnou metcousan/eo quod super ipsam ordinatio
participantem)77. This proximity is explained by Eustratius through reference to the
general principle that the processions from the First Cause (a prodoi k tj prthj
ataj/entium egressus a prima causa) must take place in a way that respects and
preserves the unity of the causal chain or concatenation (kaq' ermn / secundum
ordinem). In this respect, that which is lower in the hierarchy of beings must always be in
conjunction with that which is immediately superior to it, thus keeping an element of
similitude with it (e to feimnou sunaptomnou t pr ato ka tina prj
keno kekthmnou mowsin/semper suppositio coniunctio ei quod ante ipsum et
quamdam ad illud possidentem similitudinem).
The Latin version of this puzzle of terms and expressions taken here and there
mainly from Proclus Elements of Theology78 and from other works seems to provide
Albert with a terminology that is very close to that in his own works, borrowed mainly
from Arabic sources. The term vicinitas, used to describe the relation between the soul
and the Intellect, from which the particular soul receives the capacity of performing a
purely intellectual operation , the expression entium egressus a prima causa, and finally
the term coniunctio, to be found in reference to the necessary unity of the chain of causes,
all closely relate to Alberts arguments on the coniunctio, continuatio, and copulatio with
73

On the aequivocity of this notion, to be found in Albert as referred to both the human active intellect and
to the separate Intelligence, if not to the Intellect of the First Cause, cf. ANZULEWICZ, Entwicklung cit.,
198-199.
74
ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De causis et processu universitatis a prima causa, Opera Omnia XVII,2,
2,2,20,114,82-115,4: Est autem intellectus per essentiam, qui sua essentia universaliter agens est, et
movens omne quod est ad formam intellectus: et hoc propter hoc quod semper in actu est, et per essentiam
actu est, nec adeptus, nec possessus dici potest. Propter quod dicit Eustratius, quod possessus intellectus
numquam potest tantum depurari et perfici, quod per essentiam intellectus efficiatur, vel illi similis, nisi per
analogiam suae possibilitatis; 2,2,33,126,63-70; 2,1,8,16-20: Ab esse autem, quod superius est, deficit
noster intellectus eo quod non habemus intellectum, qui per essentiam intellectus sit, sed potius intellectum,
qui ex superiori causa influxus est nobis, cuius virtus non nisi per studium adepta est..
75
Cf. n. 57.
76
EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 317,28-32 (ed. Heylbut).
77
This formula is freely borrowed by Eustratius from PROCLUS, In Tim., 3,269,15-20 (ed. Diehl), where
Proclus discusses the way in which the Indivisible is present in the particular souls.
78
Cf. PROCLUS, El. Theol., 11,8; (ed. Dodds); 21,15-18; 29,3-4; 132,29-30; PROCLUS, Theologia Platonica,
5,103,5-6 (ed. Saffrey-Westerink).

16

the separate substances79, as well as to Albert frequent references to the term processio
or fluxus in the description of the emanation process80.
Despite these similarities, which can be explained by referring to the common
Neoplatonic background between Eustratius and the other sources read and discussed by
Albert, like the texts of the Arabic tradition or Ps.-Dionysius, there are nevertheless
consistent differences between Eustratius authentic arguments and their reading by
Albert. These differences are primarily terminological.
Eustratius formulas relating to the different states and types of intellect strictly
reflect his main source, namely Proclus. In his commentary on book VI of the NE, much
more than in the commentary on book I, Eustratius develops a theory of recollection
where the description of the transition from discursive reasoning of the particular soul to
its purely intellectual activity can clearly be traced back to several Proclean arguments.
This statement can also be supported by Eustratius claim that through recollection the
human intellect again becomes solely itself (auto mnou genmenoj). Here the
commentator literally quotes from Proclus commentary on the Alcibiades, sharing with
his source the very same doctrine of the soul self-reversion as the process through which
the soul regains its proper essence81.
Indeed, one could rightly argue that even Eustratius reference to self-reversion fits
in with Alberts emphasis on the fact that through the formal conjunction with the agent
intellect man can act and operate according to its true essence, as Albert himself states in
the De anima82. Moreover, in the De intellectu et intelligibili Albert explicitly links the
attainment of the status adeptionis to knowledge of the self83. But, again, several
differences remain. In Eustratius there is no trace of the terminology that a Latin reader
might have found in the Latin translation of the Arabic philosophical texts concerning the
classification of the different types of intellects for example, nor are there any references
to a system of separate intelligences comparable to the one present in the Arabic source
material. On the contrary, Eustratius only seems to borrow a general metaphysical
scheme from Proclus, which is founded on the distinction between the Nous as a separate
hypostasis and the particular souls. This scheme can safely be assimilated into certain
Arabic theories on the intellect only if it is taken in its general terms and not in its
specificity. Therefore, the problem lies in understanding how Alberts reading of
Eustratius combines this scheme with his own intellect theory.
79

On this topic, see A. DE LIBERA, Albert le Grand et la philosophie, Paris 1990, 246-251; 262-277; ID.
Penser au Moyen ge, Paris 1991, 290-292.
80
Cf. e.g. ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De causis et processu universitatis a prima causa, Opera Omnia XVII,2,
1,4,1,42,35-44,3; 2,1,15,78,52-55; 2,3,3,147,71-148,9, 2,3,4,142,29-33.
81
EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 317,24-26 (ed. Heylbut): tan d, tj tn paqn pallag sugcsewj ka
tn sunhrthmnwn perarq dunmewn ka t tleion ato polyetai auto mnou
genmenoj. This passage is actually constructed by assembling together two Proclean passages, namely
PROCLUS, In I Alc., 224,8-9 (ed. Westerink) (a reference to Timaeus d7): tj deutraj ka trtaj
tj sunhrthmnaj
at (scil. the soul), and PROCLUS, In I Alc., 20,15-14: qen d ka
dunmeij
sunhrthmn
dunm
Swkrthj p tlei to dialgou tn ej autn pistrafnta ka auto genmenon
genmeno qewrn
nteqen. On Proclus theory of self-reflection and self-reversion, cf. C. STEEL, Proclus ber
Selbstreflexion und Selbstbegrndung, in M. PERCKAMS/R.M. PICCIONE (eds.), Proklos, Methode,
Seelenlehre, Metaphysik, Leiden-Boston 2006, 230-255.
82
Cf. n. 13.
83
ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De intellectu et intelligibili, II, Opera Omnia IX, Paris 1890, 515a; 516a: Ex his
igitur patet qualiter per studium intellectus adipiscitur seipsum..

17

In the passage from the De XV Problematibus84 seen previously Albert uses the
notion of intellectus possessus synonymously to the notion of intellectus adeptus.
The names of Eustratius, Aspasius, and Michael of Ephesus are given as the source of the
notion of intellectus possessus. Nevertheless, as he explains what these identical
notions refer to he mentions the idea that the intelligent soul is image (imago) of the 10th
intelligence. As already stated, references to a system of separate intelligences
comparable to the Arabic one are not found in Eustratius explicitly.
Albert also refers to the idea that the human intellect is received (possessus) and
acquired (adeptus) from a superior nature (a natura superiori)85. Nevertheless, despite
the reference to the Greek Peripatetic tradition, Alberts reading of Eustratius seems to
focus more on the Arabic one, which Albert mentions in order to discuss the idea of the
unity of the intellect. However, what one can notice is that Eustratius distinction
between the two types of intellect is understood by Albert as being similar to the relation
between the dator formarum and the human soul, which he ascribes to the Arabic
philosophical tradition. In this respect, Eustratius seems to suggest a general Neoplatonic
scheme to Albert that the latter immediately refers to his own interpretation and
discussion of the Arabic theories on the intellect.
What is more problematic is Alberts reference to Eustratius in his De anima86. As
said before, in this passage Albert depicts the intellectus adeptus/possessus as the result
of a formal conjunction between the potential and the agent intellect in terms of
compositum, like form with matter (sicut forma materiae). Albert refers this type of
conjunction directly to book X of the NE, adding that the commentators on the NE,
namely Eustratius and Michael of Ephesus, also interpret Aristotle in this way.
In his commentary on book X of the NE, Michael of Ephesus often employs
expressions related to the term conjunction or assimilation to the divine things, often
revealing a Neoplatonic background behind formulas which he usually links to the
Platonic mowsij qe to be found in Thaetetus 176b, for instance87. He also develops
an argument in which the intellect is said to be akin to God, stressing that this relation to
God is not an essential one (suggenj d' o tn osan), but is only according to the
similitude of the operation (kat tn tj nergeaj moithta)88. Nevertheless, on the
topic of the types of intellect presenting elements Eustratius, who also refers to the
general idea of conjunction with the separate substances89, best fits Alberts reference to
the Byzantine commentator on the Nicomachean Ethics regarding to the notion of
intellectus possessus.
However, Alberts account of the formal conjunction in the De anima seems to
show consistent differences to the authentic doctrine in Eustratius. In fact, according to
the latter, the expressions intellectus secundum substantiam and intellectus possessus or
secundum habitum strictly apply respectively to the separate Nous and to the human
84

Cf. n. 10.
ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De XV problematibus, Opera Omnia XVII,1, 1975, 33,54-56.
86
cf. n. 12.
87
Cf. MICHAEL EPHESIUS, In X EN, 579,3-6 (ed. Heylbut); 586,9-11; 591,22-24. On Michaels dependence
upon Neoplatonic source-material cf. STEEL, Neoplatonic Sources cit., 54-57.
88
MICHAEL EPHESIUS, In X EN, 603,15-20 (ed. Heylbut). Similar arguments are to be found in PROCLUS, In
Crat., 128,14-21 (ed. Pasquali); In Remp., 2,85,5-7 (ed. Kroll); 2,85,20-22; 2,148,7-10; Theol. Plat., 1,24,311 (ed. Saffrey-Westerink).
89
EUSTRATIUS, In I EN, 6,13-18 (ed. Heylbut); 38,25-28; 63,19-25. Cf. n. 11.
85

18

intellect. If this is the case, Alberts idea that the intellectus adeptus/possessus is the
result of the composition between the agent intellect and the potential one, similar to
form and matter, does not fit in with Eustratius arguments. The reason for this
conclusion is that according to Albert the agent intellect is an individual principle,
although it emanates from the First Intellect. However, it shares the essential character of
its operation and activity with the latter intellect. Briefly, Alberts individual agent
intellect is per essentiam90. On the contrary, as we have seen, according to Eustratius this
notion applies univocally to the separate Nous, and not to the case of human intellect,
whose intellectual operation does not belong to it essentially. According to the
commentator, there is, on the one hand, a Nous to be understood as a separate hypostasis,
which is the principle of its own existence and operation, and the particular souls, on the
other, which exist and act by participation of something else. There is no trace in
Eustratius of the idea of formal conjunction as expounded by Albert, nor that the
terminology employed by the commentator can be assimilated with that of the LateAncient and Arabic discussion on the status of the agent intellect and the potential one.
It might be said that if it is true that the Neoplatonic doctrine of the logoi ousiodeis
underlies Eustratius theory of the process of concept formation, then it is clear that one
must admit a form of actuality in the particular soul, insofar as these logoi are constantly
breathing and pulsating in us, and it is us who are not aware of them, as we live in a state
of ignorance after the shock of birth91. Nevertheless, Eustratius never develops all the
logical consequences of his reference to the doctrine of recollection, preferring simply to
sketch the distinction which exists between the two modes of existence and operation
belonging to the separate Nous and to the particular souls in general terms. In this scheme
there is no place, neither in terms nor contents, for a solution which admits an individual
principle such as Alberts agent intellect which is secundum substantiam/per essentiam,
for according to Eustratius this latter mode of existence and operation belong to the sole
separate Nous.
Therefore, one would not be wrong in saying that Alberts interpretation of
Eustratius theory on the intellect expounded in the De causis et processu universitatis a
prima causa seems to be much safer than what Albert himself ascribes to the
commentator in the De anima92. But even in the De causis, the model provided by
Eustratius only fits in with Alberts reading if we accept that Alberts intellectus agens
universaliter univocally refers to intellect of the First Cause, as he seems to claim in one
passage from the same De causis et processu universitatis a prima causa93, and not to the
human active intellect, which is caused by the intellectus primae causae and which can
perform intellection only in a secondary manner94.

5. Conclusion

90

Cf. ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De Intellectu et Intelliggibili, II, Opera Omnia IX, ed. Borgnet, Paris 1890, 507.
Cf. L. STURLESE, Storia della filosofia tedesca nel medioevo. Il Secolo XIII, Firenze 1996, 114, n. 188.
91
Cf. C. STEEL, Breathing Thought cit., 299.
92
Cf. n. 71.
93
ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De causis et processu universitatis a prima causa, Opera Omnia XVII,2, 1,2,2,
26,45-78. Cf. also n. 73.
94
ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De homine, Opera Omnia XXXV, Paris 1896, tr.1, q.55, a.3, 464b.

19

In his famous Albert le Grand et la philosophie de Libera reconstructs the history of the
notion of intellectus adeptus starting from Alexander of Aphrodisias, showing how the
arabic philosophers elaborated on this notion, in order to clarify Alberts own
interpretation of it95. We are now in a position where we can update and revise de
Liberas results.
As we have seen, in Alexander of Aphrodisias terms like acquired intellect
(pkthtoj) and habitual intellect (noj kaq' xin) seem to characterize the intellect
that results from the activity of the active intellect on the material one, which produces a
sort of habit for human thought. However, this text was not available to the Latin readers,
so that what Albert had in front of him was basically the re-elaboration of Alexanders
notion by the Arabic philosophers. On the contrary, in the Latin version of Eustratius
commentary on book VI of the NE one can find the expression intellectus possessus as
the direct translation of the Greek term pkthtoj, as well as the expression intellectus
secundum habitum as the translation of the Greek noj kaq' xin. We then have a path
for the Latin reception of this notion other than the traditional one going from Alexander
to the Latin West via the Arabic philosophers. When Albert refers to the term possessus
as peculiar to the Greek philosophical tradition he is probably not referring to Alexander,
but to the two passages by Eustratius studied in the present paper, for none of the Latin
translations of Arabic sources seems to render the only occurrence of the term pkthtoj
in Alexanders De anima as possessus96.
What is interesting is that Eustratius noj kaq' xin-pkthtoj/secundum
habitum-possessus, hardly fits in with the similar occurrences of these terms in the
Greek-Arabic interpretation of Aristotles De anima. This expression does not relate to
the kaq' xin/bil-malaka of the Greek-Arabic Peripatetic tradition, namely, the
previously seen stage of the human intellect characterized by the possession of thoughts
more or less without actually thinking them97. Nor does Eustratius intellectus secundum
habitum match the intellectus in habitu, or even in effectu, which a Latin reader could
have found in the available translations of the Arabic source-material in relation to the
process of progressive actualization of the human intellects potentialities98. On the
contrary, it entails a reference to that participatory disposition of the soul which renders it
intelligent, and as such it is much closer to the notion of actively acquired intellect of the
95

Cf. DE LIBERA, Albert le Grand cit., 251-266.


On the Arabic interpretation of Alexanders acquired intellect or intellect from without, see A.
BADAWI, New Philosophical Texts Lost in Greek, in P. MOREWEDGE (ed.), Islamici Philosophical
Theology, Albany 4-5. The passages in the Arabic translation of Alexanders De intellectus in which the
expression intellect from without is to be found, though not literally translated, are J. FINNEGAN, Texte
arabe du per no dAlexandre dAphrodise, Melanges de lUniversit Saint Joseph, 33,2 (1956), 157202, 172, 191.
97
Cf. e.g. AL-KINDI, Rasil, 1,358 (ed. Abu Rida); AVICENNA, De anima, I,5 (ed. Rahman), 49,13
(intellect in habitu, i.e. possessing the primary intelligibles); I,5,50,1 (intellect in effectu, i.e. possessing the
secondary intelligibles without actually thinking them); AVERROES, Commentarium Magnum in Aristotelis
De anima libros, 496-497 (ed. Crawford). Cf. also DAVIDSON, Alfarabi cit., 10-11, 84, 99-102, 273, 332333; D.N. HASSE, Avicennas De anima in the Latin West. The Formation of a Peripatetic Philosophy of
the Soul 1160-1300, London-Turin 2000, 178ff.
98
Cf. e.g. Liber de Causis primis et secundis, ed. R. DE VAUX, Notes et Textes sur l'Avicennisme Latin,
Paris 1934, 128,24-129,13; AL-FARABI, De intellectu, ed. E. GILSON, Les sources grco-arabes de
laugustinisme avicennisant, Archives dHistoire doctrinale et littraire de Moyen ge, 4 (1929), ;
AVICENNA LATINUS, De anima, 96,44-97,55 (ed. Van Riet).
96

20

same Arabic tradition99, or to Alberts own interpretation of the Aristotelian passage of


De generatione animalium (2,3,736b28) which he expounds in the De anima100.
Nevertheless, as said before, Eustratius never speaks of a formal conjunction, nor is the
participatory character of the noj kaq' xin-pkthtoj/secundum habitum-possessus
explained as the result of a compound between a formal principle and a material one.
Alberts reading of Eustratius theory of the intellect seems to attempt a forced
reconciliation, on the grounds of a common Neoplatonic background, between a
Byzantine admirer of Proclus with the Arabic interpreters of Aristotles De anima101.
Often this attempt is made difficult by the very same terminology employed by
Eustratius. The Latin translation of Eustratius commentary on book VI of the NE by
Grossateste offers a text in which the stage of the intellectus adeptus/possessus is
generally defined as intellectus secundum habitum, making it impossible to link
Eustratius arguments on the two types of intellect, separate and human, directly to the
traditional Greek-Arabic classification of the different stages of intellects, in which in
habitu and adeptus do not refer to one and the same intellectual stage.
Finally, despite the analogy with the Arabic notion of the actively acquired intellect,
which is in the same line as the Arabic interpretation of Alexanders reference to the
intellect coming from outside in the De intellectu, Eustratius intellectus possessus also
shows elements of originality. In fact, this particular noj kaq' xin-pkthtoj,
borrowed from Proclus in its entirety, seems as well to require a stage of activation,
something comparable to Alberts notion of per studium as that which allows the
attainment of the status adeptionis102. Eustratius actually follows Proclus quite strictly in
stating that the transition between discursive and non-discursive thought, and in general
the whole process of recollection, starts from outside, from what we collect through
sense-perception103. The commentator even uses the same term employed by Proclus to
explain the awakening function of that which comes from outside, from the sense-data,
namely the forms related to the root neger-104. It is through a process of learning, or in
general through experience within the realm of sensorial data, that the soul can revert
back onto itself, leaving the dimension of discursive reasoning and becoming purely
intellectual105. This participatory disposition which allows the soul to become intelligent
and grasp the intelligibles directly, though not in the manner proper to the separate Nous,
99

Cf. DAVIDSON, Alfarabi cit., 11-12.


ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De anima, III,3,11, Opera Omnia VII, pars I, 1968, 222,29-37.
101
On Alberts dependence upon the Arabic sources for the elaboration of his own intellect theory, cf. D.N.
HASSE, Das Lehrstck von den vier Intellekten in der Scholastik: von den arabischen Quellen bis zu
Albertus Magnus, Recherches de Thologie et Philosophie mdivales, 21-77; J. MLLER, Der Einflu
der arabischen Intellektspekulation auf die Ethik des Albertus Magnus, in A. SPEER/L. WEGENER (eds.)
Wissen ber Grenzen. Arabischen Wissen und lateinisches Mittelalter, Berlin-New York (Miscellanea
Mediaevalia, 33), 545-568.
102
Cf. e.g. ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De intellectu et intelligibili, II,8, Opera Omnia IX, 514b: De intellectu
adeptum per studium disseramus adeptus est qui acquiritur per studium. Adeptus igitur intellectus est
quando per studium aliquis verum et proprium suum adipiscitur intellectum.
103
Cf. e.g. PROCLUS, In I Eucl., 45,10-14 (ed. Friedlein); In Parm., 894,19-23. Cf. STEEL, Brething Thought
cit., 301, 303.
104
Cf. EUSTRATIUS, In II An. Post, 22,24-28 (ed. Hayduck); 265,19-24. Compare these passages for
example with PROCLUS, In I Eucl., 18,17-19 (ed. Friedlein) (on the specific case of mathematics); Theol.
Plat., 1,16,16-18 (ed. Saffrey-Westerink).
105
That this correspond to Eustratius position it is clear from EUSTRATIUS, In VI EN, 348,30-37. This
passage strongly echoes PROCLUS, In Parm., 879,17-19 (ed. Cousin).
100

21

is something which is activated only after the relation with the data of sense-perception.
The latter constitute the starting point of the whole process of concept formation, which,
nevertheless, is accomplished fully only when that which we collect from sensorial
experience is referred to what Eustratius calls the echoes in us of an absolutely existing
Intellect106.
Eustratius intellectus possessus conveys both the traditional understanding of the
noj kaq' xin-pkthtoj, namely the progressive acquisition of a habit in thought, and
the previously mentioned intellectus adeptus agens, a supervening disposition
corresponding to the Arabic interpretation of the noj qraqen107. These two different
types of intellectus adeptus, which De Libera calls intellectus adeptus 1 and intellectus
adeptus 2108, are one and the same thing for Eustratius, one and the same acquired
intellect.
Given the importance of this notion in Alberts own theory of the intellect, it is
hereby clear that the role played by some of Eustratius arguments concerning the notion
of intellectus possessus are relevant and cannot be underestimated by modern
scholarship anymore than the equally essential Arabic source-material. But nevertheless,
one cannot help but notice the originality of Alberts interpretation of these arguments.
It is still too early to say whether Eustratius may represent an alternative or
additional source for the XIII century elaboration of the felicitas speculativa, besides the
well researched Arabic ones. However, one can safely claim that Eustratius never
developed any theory of contemplative happiness that is comparable in terms and
contents to the Latin discussion of this issue. On the contrary, the commentator simply
seems to depict a theory on the different types of intellect and intellection grounded
entirely on Proclean formulas and arguments that are borrows freely, and which are reelaborated by him in an autonomous argumentative structure. It is Albert the Great who
employs these arguments made by Eustratius in order to support his own elaboration and
discussion of the topic of contemplative happiness originating from the Arabic sourcematerial.
What seems to emerge from Eustratius commentary on book VI of the NE is more
often a theory of the process of concept formation grounded entirely on recollection, and
particularly on Proclus theories of causation and intellection, with some Christian
elements added quite sporadically by the commentator. If, as I have said before, it is still
early to understand to what extent Eustratius played a role in the XIII century discussions
on contemplative happiness, nevertheless it is at least clear that he fully deserves a
relevant place in the history of the reception of Proclus in the Latin Middle Ages, and that
the frequent quotations of Eustratius that are to be found in Berthold of Moosburgs
commentary on Proclus Elements of Theology, for example, are an open invitation for

106

Cf. n. 31.
Cf. DE LIBERA, Albert le Grand cit., 253-262, in part. 254. The same author accidentally refers to one of
the two passages from the Eustratius Latinus in which the notion of intellectus possessus appears in A.
DE LIBERA, Albert le Grande le Platonisme. De la doctrine des Ides la theorie des trois tats de
luniversel, in E.O. BOS/P.A. MEIJER, On Proclus & His Influence in Medieval Philosophy, Leiden-New
York-Kln 1992, 89-119, 106, n. 61. Nevertheless, the author does not recognize the Proclean source of
this passage (In VI EN, 303,19-27), nor he realizes that the Greek term correspondent to possessus is
precisely pkthtoj.
107

108

22

modern scholars to investigate this Byzantine commentators reception in the Latin


West109.

109

Some intuitions concerning Eustratius role in Berthold of Moosburg can be found in T. IREMADZE,
Konzeptionen des Denkens im Neuplatonismus. Zur Rezeption der Proklischen Philosophie im deutschen
und georgisce Mittelalter. Dietrich von Freiberg-Berthold von Moosburg-Joane Petrizi, AmsterdamPhiladelphia 2004, 62, 128ff.

23